It’s probably not fair to judge a marketing conference by its celebrity guests. But if we did, we’d have to admit that Advertising Week 2019 looked pretty darn impressive. What other event this year brought together Questlove, Arianna Huffington, Laverne Cox, Tony Hawk, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Nikki Sixx? What other event possibly could have?

Still, celebrity guests ain’t everything. We sat down with Marcella Hoard and Tori Walker, two members of our accounts team who made the trip to New York, to find out if this conference offered more than a bit of star gazing.

WELL DONE MARKETING: What was it about this conference in particular that got your attention?

TORI WALKER: I think the best conferences allow you to pick and choose from an assortment of panels and presentations, rather than force you down a single track. What I liked about Advertising Week was that I could choose the sessions I was interested in, so I really got to tailor the experience to what was relevant to my role at Well Done.

MARCELLA HOARD: A lot of conferences build themselves around a single aspect of marketing—content marketing or digital strategy and so on. I really liked that this conference wasn’t so siloed. I could go to a creative talk, or go listen to the latest trends in digital strategy, without ever feeling like the presentations were only for creatives or digital strategists. There was a lot that connected with me and the work that I’m doing.

WDM: Did any of the speakers in particular connect with you?

MH: Jared Belsky, the CEO of 360i, was great, I think we both learned so much from his presentation. One thing that connected with me was his argument that our goal shouldn’t be to overdeliver to clients, it should be to anticipate the needs of the client and demonstrate critical thinking. Even if you’re overdelivering for your client, if they feel like they’re dragging you along behind them, that’s the kiss of death. There’s an extra piece that’s required of you to do the difficult thinking.

TW: He also talked about owning things that don’t go according to plan. If a presentation goes awry, or if a meeting gets derailed, how do you get your team back on track? His suggestion was that you reach out to the client right away, you address it directly, and you tell the client how you’re going to fix it. Sometimes things aren’t going to go well, so you have to know how you’re going to correct and rebound from that.

WDM: What about for the agency as a whole? Were there any big lessons that felt like we could learn from as a company? 

TW: I made Marcella go to a panel with Bethenny Frankel, who I think is just a fascinating person, and it ended up being kind of a hot mess—she just says what she thinks, so it got contentious. But the discussion was all about CEO leadership, and what CEOs need to stand for in such a politically-charged atmosphere. Part of that was a discussion of how you listen to internal feedback from employees without letting them run the company.

MH: So many companies have a “Mission, Vision, Values”-type statement, and so often we find they don’t really do anything with it. It can be scary to take a stand, especially when you’re in a leadership position and you’re the one under the most scrutiny. But I think what we really heard from that panel was the importance of finding your company’s purpose and pursuing it.

TW: Right, and at an agency like Well Done, we really are passionate. Our clients are passionate. We’re all very mission driven. So how do we take those passions and make sure everyone is working toward that thing? Projects are most successful when people feel that sense of ownership. I think it’s something we could all stand to reflect on.

MH: Well Done makes it so crystal clear that we are mission driven. That’s really what I took home from the conference—we can’t get so lost in the day-to-day that we stop stepping back to look at the bigger picture. Individually, we all stand for different things, but what do we stand for when were together? Having that purpose—which I think we do have here—is what makes it possible to do great work.

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Featured image courtesy of Quad Graphics